Posts Tagged lay preachers
Catholic faithful of the dioceses of Rochester, New York, have posted an open letter to Pope Francis on their website, “God’s Word, Many Voices,” urging the pontiff to expand lay preaching. The letter advocates for well informed and inspired lay preaching at Mass, which the authors believe can be encouraged in a manner consistent with canon law. You may click here to read the letter and add your signature, and you may read the letter in full below:
November 28, 2016
His Holiness, Pope Francis
00120 Vatican City
We, the undersigned, understand and believe that you have the authority to offer your interpretations of the 1983 Code of Canon Law to the universal Church. Specifically, we are requesting that you urge the bishops to take a pastoral and expansive view on lay preaching during the Eucharist.
We make this request for the following reasons.
(1) People come to church hungering for a word of inspiration that will get them through the week.
(2) Lay preaching is rooted in Scripture and Tradition. Jesus, in his encounters with people, often empowered them to proclaim the Good News. Take the Samaritan Woman at the Well and Mary of Magdala, for example. Leaders of house churches in the first century, men and women alike, preached the Good News during their Eucharistic gatherings. Hildegard of Bingen – outstanding twelfth century abbess, poet, prophet, and more – was invited on preaching tours by Rhineland bishops. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy found the presence of Christ in the worshiping community, as well as in Scripture, priest, and Eucharist; indeed, “all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations” to which all the baptized “have a right and obligation” (paragraph 14). Furthermore, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church assures us that “the holy People of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office” (paragraph 12).
(3) Preaching is a sacred responsibility, one to which lay people are called and for which they are gifted. Indeed, lay preaching has mushroomed over the last 40 years, and a number of U.S. dioceses have schools to prepare people for this ministry.
(4) The 1983 Code of Canon Law confirms that “lay people, like all Christ’s faithful, are deputed to the apostolate by baptism and confirmation” so that God’s salvation might be made known (#225.1). “They can also be called upon to cooperate with Bishops and priests in the exercise of the ministry of the word” (#759). Importantly, lay preaching is possible in circumstances of “necessity” or where “advantageous” (#766), as long as the homily – a unique form of preaching – remains with the ordained (#767.1).
So it is that we advocate for informed lay preaching in today’s Church. We believe
(1) that the experience of a gifted and well prepared lay person can often more readily connect with the folks sitting in the pews,
(2) that many of our priests are stretched because of fewer numbers, and they no longer have adequate time to prepare a thoughtful homily,
(3) and that a priest from another country can be difficult to understand.
But this remains: everyone needs to hear a word of inspiration.
So, then, how might we envision a pastoral and expansive approach to canon law? The local bishop could commission a gifted and well prepared lay person to preach. In such a case, the ordained person could deliver a brief homily before calling upon the lay person to thoughtfully fill out the thrust of the homily. Thus, there would be a continued reflection, but not at exactly the same time as the homily. The ultimate purpose of the homily would be respected and enhanced, all the while calling upon the Spirit-filled gifts of the lay person.
With prayers for your continued good health and courageous leadership,
Bishop Salvatore Matano, the new bishop of Rochester, N.Y., is in the process of ending a 40-year custom of permitting lay ministers to preach at Mass. Most are women commissioned to preach by the former bishop, Matthew Clark. All have advanced degrees in theology and all have served for many years in various diocesan leadership positions. Many are or were parish administrators in a diocese where one-third of all parishes are without a resident priest. (And things are going to get worse. According to the diocesan website, the number of active diocesan priests is expected to decline from 140 to 62 by 2025 — a decline of almost 60 percent.)
“Preaching at Mass by prepared and gifted laity, especially laywomen, flourished under Clark, who interpreted church law broadly, though the practice actually began under his predecessor, Bishop Joseph Hogan. Clark, who retired in 2012, was nationally known for supporting expanded roles for women in the church.”
By Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.
Speaking of the roles of the laity and of women in the Church reminds us that Voice of the Faithful® has long advocated for ordaining women to the diaconate. An example of the impetus for women deacons in the Church recently occurred in Ireland. When Bishop Kiernan O’Reilly of Killaloe Diocese began a permanent male diaconate, women began asking him to include them in his call for deacons. You may support them by writing to Bishop O’Reilly. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Remind him that, “for the first half of its history, that is, for more than 11 centuries, women were ordained to the diaconate by bishops, within the sanctuary, with the laying on of hands.” (from the Voice of the Faithful document “Women Deacons: How Long Will It Take the Catholic Church to Open This Door“)